Catherine “Cat” McDow was the second of five children born to Rosa Samuel and Golden George. Her sunrise was on 18 June 1927 in the County of Lee, Township of Mt. Clio, in the City of Wysacky, South Carolina. Catherine’s sunset occurred on 17 September 2020 in New York County, in the borough of The Bronx, in the State of New York at age 93.
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Catherine and her siblings – Sammie Lee, Inez, Alex, and Henry – lost their mother at a tender age. Being the eldest daughter, it became Catherine’s responsibility to raise and look out for her brothers and sister. Cousin James, whose mother taught him how to cook (before she died), shared his cooking skills with Catherine. During playtime and other activities, “Sister,” as they affectionately called her, carried young Henry on her hip–everywhere. The only time they were separated is when she played basketball and she aced that! Sister made sure they all ate well and got their ‘schooling’ as each attended the same—Bishopville’s Cooper Mill Elementary School
and Dennis High School. And they all attended St. Paul’s Church, also in Bishopville, SC, which became a cultural staple for them. The children made a promise to their mother: they vowed to stick together through thick and thin. Sister had a ‘charge to keep’ that she embraced with all of her being. When they became of age, they each migrated from the South to the North and eventually settled in New York where Sister became The True Matriarch of the George Family.
One undisputed truth: Catherine loved fiercely and protected those she loved as a lioness.
A slender, stunning, stylish image of grace and refinement is how Cat might have been described soon after she arrived in New York City. Though she never spoke above a whisper, her luminously expressive eyes spoke volumes that commanded respect. As a young woman, she looked forward to weekend socializing with friends over music and dance. But Cat was on a mission that outweighed simple pleasures and kept her on course. Growing up in the height of The Depression and helping raise a family, She never wanted to live in poverty and always wanted a home that would keep her family together. No stranger to hard work and sacrifice, buying home was a personal goal that she was destined to achieve.
Cat met William H. McDow and he swept her off her feet. He was a popular Chef in the West Village. The smitten couple married in 11 November 1952 and settled down in a cozy five-story Harlem walk-up. Bethel AME Church was their home church. Life together was sweet but became even sweeter with the birth of their one and only child, Patricia Diana. To say that Cat and William doted on Pat was an understatement. By the time Pat started school, one of Cat’s rituals included a trip to the dressmaker for
custom-made school clothes! Nothing was spared when it came to Pat – music and dance lessons, the best summer camp, you name it, she got it.
Cat was a sagacious, virtuous woman and nurtured her daughter in the same fashion. She instilled ethics and etiquette: the importance of self-love to love her heritage and others, to fear no one but God, how to respect money and be frugal, and always develop multiple streams of income. Pat was taught that education was a life-long self-investment. Their relationship was steeped in mutual love as they were the
center of each other’s universe.
Catherine enrolled in Apex Beauty School and earned her cosmetology license. A die-hard entrepreneur, She serviced her clients Tuesday through Friday at home and rented a booth on Saturdays at Sophie’s Beauty Shop on Washington Avenue in the Bronx. By 1969, Cat purchased a 2-family home located in
the North East section of the Bronx. It was a great day! She and Pat lived on the upper level while Henry and his family occupied the second level. Edson Avenue became the official nucleus of The George Family. It was there that Sister was first dubbed the “Queen of Chitterlings!” Get in line for her Signature Coconut Cake made from scratch and her ‘make you wanna holler’ collard greens and BBQ Ribs! Cat was also noted for her floral, fruit and veggie garden where her thumb reigned supreme. But what baffled
everyone was how meticulous the front lawn was. No one believed she manicured it on bended knee with a scissor!
Soon after moving into their new home, Catherine became an active member of Woods Memorial AME Zion Church and later served as both a choir member and a deaconess. She was always willing to prepare chicken dinners for Church Improvement Fundraising Projects. She also served as treasurer of the 3100 Block Homeowners Association.
After her career as a self-employed cosmetologist, she worked for two banks: Manufacturer’s Hanover Trust and Chase Manhattan. She then became a proud employee of the City of New York Human Resources Administration. She retired in the 1990s to care for her beloved sister Inez who became gravely ill. After Catherine found pleasure in becoming a travel companion with her daughter. Together they checked off Senegal, then traveled to Mexico and the Dominican Republic with their DR Family:
Eartha; Frank & Gerry; Yvonne & Bill; Connie & Jim; and Linda & Grant. DR became her second home for over a decade. Aside from being an avid cook, baker, gardener, Catherine was always proud to exercise her voting rights, especially her novel vote in 2007 for the first African American President Barack Obama. Cat is also known as a Bid Whist Maven, and a fashionista shop a-holic. Everyone who knew her will miss Cat’s Annual Christmas Cards – the first greeting they’d receive year after year.
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Catherine, Cat, Sister leaves to cherish her memory: Her devoted daughter Patricia Diana McDow, son-in-law Barry Howard Pear, and Bella; her last surviving sibling Henry George, sister-in-law Eleanor; a host of George/McDow Nieces & Nephews; extended family members and numerous friends.